White House mum on defense bill veto threat

The administration had issued a veto threat to both the House and Senate versions of the defense bill over the Guantanamo restrictions and other provisions in the bill.

“The Administration strongly objects to section 1031's restrictions on the use of funds to transfer detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to foreign countries,” the administration said in its Statement of Administration Policy last month.

Despite the veto threat, most defense observers don’t expect the White House to actually follow through vetoing the sweeping $633 billion package that includes things like pay raises for troops.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinSen. Gillibrand, eyeing 2020 bid, rankles some Democrats The Hill's 12:30 Report Congress needs bipartisanship to fully investigate Russian influence MORE (D-Mich.) told reporters Tuesday that he saw nothing in the bill that would lead the administration to follow through on the veto threat.

The conference report is expected to pass the House and Senate by Friday and be sent to the president’s desk.

Congress has placed roadblocks on administration efforts to close Guantanamo since President Obama signed an executive order at the start of his presidency to do so.

This year’s bill prohibited the use of funds to build any facility to house detainees in the United States, as well as a one-year restriction on transferring detainees out of Gitmo.

The Senate’s bill had included an open-ended restriction on transferring detainees in an amendment from Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteAudit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years No, the US did not spend million on a gas station in Afghanistan MORE (R-N.H.), but that language was removed in conference committee with the one-year ban that has been in previous bills.

The White House noted in its veto threat that the president had signed past versions of the bill with similar restrictions.

“When he signed past versions of this legislation, the President objected to the restrictions carried forward by section 1031, promised to work towards their repeal, and warned the Congress that the restrictions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to foreign countries would in certain circumstances interfere with constitutional responsibilities committed to the Executive Branch,” the administration statement said.

— Justin Sink contributed.